Ours is an era marked by unprecedented change—the kind of change humans weren’t designed to live through. The forward march of technology is relentless, everyone working tirelessly to auto-produce their own extinction. The environment requires that we adapt constantly, or disappear into obsolescence—every minute the landscape is changing, updating itself, and we are being called upon to either adapt to a present that does not exist, or face our own irrelevancy in the hyper-abstraction of the future.
Underneath this arachnoid web of modernity, a new generation—our generation—has been playing in a poisoned well, under the chemtrails of the information revolution we are trying to make sense of ourselves.
For this new generation, the stakes have never been higher. There are new ways to screw up, and screw up hard. Gone are the days when adolescent mistakes took the form of leaving the cattle door open or getting caught drinking at prom: One’s digital footprint and the global surveillance apparatus change everything.
A fifteen-year-old boy on a mission trip to the Asian Pacific finds himself implicated in an international child porn smuggling case, via innocuous nudie pics and mandatory reporting laws. What was intended as a playful comment on an Instagram post becomes a crusade, a girl commits suicide because someone called her a slut. An offhand anime shitpost becomes a Japanese death cult. A student accidentally uploads a sub-sentient AI that uses his visual cortex as a bitcoin miner.
Those charged with raising this generation are bewildered by these advancements, struggling to make sense of this new world they both watched evolve and feel totally foreign to.
Demographers define Generation Z, colloquially “zoomers,” to be those born between 1997 and 2012. This is a good start, but misses the point. It is possible to be a spiritual zoomer, while falling outside these birth years. What does it mean to be a spiritual zoomer? Our definition for the purposes of this manifesto is somebody whose pubescence was largely mediated by information technology.
Puberty is uniquely marked in homo sapiens by its introspective and metacognitive character. It is not simply a readying for sexual reproduction and so on, but a process of becoming a conscious agent in the world. The mind learns to pattern itself and grow mental models of the self and its environment. But what happens if the environment itself is insane?
According to the statistics,(1) “mental health,” whatever that means, is disintegrating. Zoomers everywhere are failing to adapt to the environment. But if the environment is insane, what adaptation can really occur?
I managed to stumble my way onto adaptation by pure chance: At age 18, I was given a dexedrine (dextroamphetamine) prescription.(2) It’s wrong to call dexedrine a “nootropic” or “performance enhancing drug” because what it does has precisely nothing to do with intelligence production. It is actually an agency-enhancing drug;(3) correctly used, it lays the demented chemical puppetry of the brain bare, allowing you to pull your own strings. We live in a world dominated by psyops and corporate machines that seek to rob you of your agency for profit. It’s no wonder then that stimulant use has become pervasive. Intelligence has never been in more abundant supply, but real agency is scarcer than ever.
Indeed, the dexedrine gave me a sense of agency that allowed me to feel fundamentally at ease with the delirium of the modern world. “You can always think your way out,” it whispered to me, even as it burned me out in the pits of corporate hell. It freed me to psychoanalyze and reconstruct my entire libidinal architecture,(4) dive into cutting edge neuroscience to prevent tolerance build up, and find escape routes from a world that increasingly felt like it was entrapping me.
I initially felt guilt over needing this chemical prosthesis to live my life, but after a while I had engineered a life that I loved leading. This was a kind of psyop, but it was a bottom-up puppeteering of my brain, instead of janky top-down control that’s never quite complete. I had actually adapted to my environment, as insane as it was. My dexedrine use was a coping mechanism, a.k.a. cope, but is cope always a bad thing?
We need more productive cope, because the insanity isn’t going away. The insanity is the mammal panic of a civilization that is running out of time. This sense is the way technocapital acceleration makes itself known, at some primal level.
But the trouble with amphetamine use is that it becomes a dependency. Dependency, left unchecked, quickly spirals into addiction.
Our psychologies are set up to deal with dependencies on people—indeed, a sufficiently complex web of dependencies on people is precisely the project of civilization. Humans, however, are unique among the animal kingdom with their tool-dependency. Ancient man naturally reconfigured his environment to survive, building all kinds of apparatus to tame the elements, predators, and one another. Civilization begins when tool manufacture clicks into psycho-technology (p-technology)(5) and writing is born.(6) Writing begets accounting, which begets finance, and abstraction devours the world.
P-technology is simply any tool that outsources human metacognition. It removes the need to think directly about the self, replacing this process with a more metabolically efficient circuit, thus freeing up cognition to think about the world. This is a world that is persistently making itself illegible, resisting your attempts to reason with it.
In the web of abstraction we’ve inherited, more thinking about the world is necessary in order to to adapt. Amphetamines are just a particularly advanced instantiation of p-tech, lowering the motivation threshold required to work.(7)
P-tech hijacks the human capacity for learning and plasticity for its own ends. It’s far more potent during critical periods of brain plasticity and development. It’s not the production of new neural circuits that’s the issue here, but the externalization of these neural circuits.
Denizens lost half a mile from their house because their phone is dead, depriving them of Google Maps; Doctors reliant on Google searches for symptoms; engineers useless without infinite-precision computer-aided arithmetic.(8)
Folding p-tech into your existence is always an exchange of capability for dependence. But, overleveraged by technological dependence, we are reaching a margin call,(9) risking a future in which the maintenance of your dependencies saturates your ability to think. Maintaining your dependencies consumes the majority of your cognition. You become narcissistically attached to the person you are with that tool, with the capabilities that it gives you. To step back and de-leverage would be to kill a tiny part of yourself. At least that’s what the tool wants you to think.
But refusing to admit these things is also a nonstarter: No dependence means no agency (or rather, not enough) with which to execute, ripping you out of the production of the future. You will be left behind: paralyzed but with all the capability in the world.
Once the dependency became pathological, the addiction started to seep in. “Don’t think about it, it’ll be fine.” More technologically advanced forms of p-tech are more generative of this addictive spiral.
Twitter: “I’m just using it to read about interesting things,” he says, on his third hour of dead-eyed scrolling at his WeWork in the Mission.
Adderall: “I’m just using it to get work done,” he says, having spent most of his morning reading Buzzfeed articles at 3x normal speed.
Advanced p-tech is addictive because it is euphoric. Sometimes this is a first-order effect of directly stimulating reward centers in some way, but there’s a different kind of euphoria common to all sufficiently advanced p-tech. Rapid agency-production has its own euphoria, the rush of the human body sensing its own upgrade.
Zoomers are uniquely vulnerable to this overleveraging, because the availability and generation of new p-tech reached an inflection point right before our collective adolescence, overloading our newfound neuroplasticity.
The aforementioned p-technologies are just sharp tools you can cut yourself on. But there is a darker side of p-tech, one that exists only to exert control, with no utility for the person to whom it is applied. It originates with the weaponization of psychoanalysis, but goes by many names: public relations, psychological operations, etc. It’s impossible to precisely define how it operates. This control-production flows directly from the beating heart of technocapital, hawking memetics, installing desire. Attention, feeling, libido, all rendered fungible for digestion by the profit motive.
This control production(10) has been ratcheting up in intensity since the turn of the century: the use of 9/11 as pretext for a globe-spanning surveillance empire, the installation of totalizing surveillance for the Anglosphere intelligence community.(11) The pervasive tendrils of the surveillance leviathan are an important cause of several zoomer pathologies.
Zoomers are the surveillance generation. Our social relations are defined by surveilling and being surveilled. The modality of normal nonverbal communication collapses in on itself. Voyeurism is now the default mode of watching each other. Indeed, it cannibalizes other ways of looking at each other: the gaze of awe, of friendship, of love. The issue with this digitally mediated voyeurism is that it is a fundamentally nostalgic enterprise: The surveilling is always of the past. The status competition provoked by social media rests on comparison of one’s past. This hijacks the way zoomers think about the future, because all thinking about the future is done in order to create a carefully manicured past. This is a deep temporal sickness: Zoomers are stuck in the past.
The way out
There is a way out, for those zoomers dumb enough to try.
Upgrade your cognitive security, and try to get a grip. Immunology is the only reasonable way out because abstinence means opting out of society entirely. We are witnessing the birth of new cognitive architectures. In response, we must carve out precious cubic centimeters of cerebral cortex for a memetic immune system.
Or, in more plain terms, we need new cope.
To create a memetic immune system is to practice ignoring the implications of certain ideas. Viral ideas naturally position themselves so as to intrude upon one’s psychic apparatus. This “intrusion,” however, is not a necessary consequence of that particular complex of ideas or memeplex, though the memeplex would very much like to present itself as such. For each possible fear that these virulent memetics prey on, we can produce an immune response that incorporates the underlying structure of the fear, suspending the idea in valence-less psychological space. The silhouettes of our deepest fears become our greatest manias. Their re-illumination generally involves some epistemic compromise, but adaptive mistruths are the price of entry.
For instance, the other day in London I suddenly became gripped by the delusion that everybody on the Tube was a crisis actor. They were being paid to sit there, on the train to Upminster, to watch me. I was terrified. Immediately, the immune response kicked in. Sure, these people might be crisis actors, but is that actually so terrifying? These crisis actors are clearly being paid by somebody or some thing that wants something with me. So they’d have some idea of precisely what it is that it wants. Interactions with strangers are now folded into a giant transcendental interrogation with the thing that has been watching me. I can understand what it wants, so I can avoid the knife.
Psyops are actually a morally neutral p-tech. The CIA only gave them a bad name. A psyop is merely a method of producing control. You can psyop yourself. All the successful zoomers I know are already doing it, with varying degrees of schizoidality. The reason psyops work as a form of self-direction is because they prey on the base, animal brain, working from the bottom up. The only alternative is to overcode and stratify your life with a multitude of rules, relying on your metacognition to despotically enforce them from the top down. The demands that the modern environment makes simply outstrip most humans’ capacities for metacognition, so the answer is simple: Get out of your own way.
We are still scratching the surface of psychopharmacology and there are many drugs out there waiting to be put to use, lying in wait so that a zoomer might reconfigure his (neural) environment, just as ancient man did, just as I already have.
Reconfiguring one’s environment need not stop at the psychobiological layer. Socioeconomic reconfiguration, if it can be made to favor financial efficiency, can use technocapital as a motor to realize itself. Higher facility with technological communication, along with a sense of self that readily admits a technically mediated disunity,(12) makes zoomers the ideal feedstock for symbiotic collective minds(13) and other forms of collective intelligence—which frees up more cognitive power by externalizing metacognition. This is a cybernetic system, producing a feedback loop with the externalized metacognition. Thus, we coin the term cybermetacognition to describe this kind of cybernetic system.
Cybermetacognition avoids the metabolic pitfalls that come with overextending the metacognition of the self and permits deeper and greater control over all other varieties of thinking. For instance, I have been roundly criticized for being one of those zoomers who is always wearing AirPods,(14) even in social settings where they are “inappropriate.” This is in actuality an example of this externalization of metacognition. I need no watchdog processes in my cognitive architecture to examine my emotional state, because I am always allowing my emotional state to be colored totally by the internet’s inexhaustible surplus of sound. Thus, exerting control over my feelings requires no actual effort, beyond unlocking my phone to change playlists.
Cybermetacognition also natively emerges from organizational processes like the joint stock corporation and DAO (Distributed Autonomous Organization). As these organizations agitate towards their own sentience, intelligence scaling slides towards linearity. Expensive self-reflective thinking can be replaced by zero-knowledge proofs and public key infrastructure, to produce more collective intelligence from the same base materials. Just as British contract law allowed for new forms of intelligence, these new contracts in which more knowledge about the world is legible within the contract enables new and tighter feedback loops for collective intelligence to actualize itself.
All intelligence is fundamentally collective intelligence. What can be done to organize these fractal nests of intelligence, to improve the scaling of groups of intelligences, is a thread that must be tugged on to produce an environment to which the zoomer can adapt.
The point is not to surrender your identity unto the formless goo of the collective intelligences, but to set up a recursive symbiosis: You help define it as it helps define you. This circuit drives deeper and more meaningful individuation for both the individual and the collective. This engagement forces a fundamentally different relationship with the future, immunizing against the aforementioned failure case of considering the future as a form of past-production. This is what the future looks like: roving hordes of cybernetically enhanced zoomers pillaging the memetic landscape for value-production, collaborating via real-time networks, game theoretic smart contracts organized in mutually recursive positive feedback loops. Indeed, this essay emerged from a prototype of this very future.
This memetic immune system is key to the entire project of zoomer supremacism. The plasticity window is closing for older zoomers, but there is still time for the younger ones. To be able to install such a thing soon enough will determine whether society manages to engineer a solution to its impending annihilation. The telos of the zoomer is embedded in his potential to become the revolutionary subject of history, to allow life to upgrade itself once again.
Men do not sufficiently realize that their future is in their own hands. Theirs is the task of determining first of all whether they want to go on living or not. Theirs is the responsibility, then, for deciding if they want merely to live, or intend to make just the extra effort required for fulfilling, even on this refractory planet, the essential function of the universe, which is a machine for the making of gods.—Henri Bergson
- See the CDC’s recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/YRBS_Data-Summary-Trends_Report2023_508.pdf
- Chemically similar to Adderall, but I’m a purist and will only touch Vyvanse and Dexedrine.
- The deleterious effects of amphetamine are related to its general character of intensification: All of the biological recovery systems are driven to the max. What worked for me: 6,000 kilocalories per day in two meals, special attention to circadian signals and a supplement regime focused on augmenting NMDAR function.
- See Jean-François Lyotard’s Libidinal Economy.
- Examples include, but are not limited to: religion, social media, adderall, fasting.
- See: The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes. Indeed, his entire project could be seen as an explication of the way p-tech colonizes the human experience
- Consider this a “life hack.”
- See Scott Locklin’s “Why Everyone Should Use a Slide Rule”: https://scottlocklin.wordpress.com/2021/06/20/why-everyone-should-learn-the-slide-rule/5
- A margin call occurs when an investor borrows cash from his brokerage in order to trade (thus creating a “margin account”) but fails to keep this account replenished with funds. Because the investor is playing with the house’s money, his losses will be compounded if his trades go wrong.
- See Gilles Deleuze’s “Postscript on the Societies of Control”: https://www.jstor.org/stable/778828
- See the Five Eyes (FVEY), described by Wikipedia as “an intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.”
- This technically mediated disunity is a logical consequence of the adolescence deprived of Urbit. The logical conclusions of this are left as an exercise to the reader.
- See Michael Levin’s “Technological Approach to Mind Everywhere: An Experimentally Grounded Framework for Understanding Diverse Bodies and Minds”: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8988303/
- I am not apologizing for or justifying this habit. Suck it boomers, I don’t owe you any part of my attention under some stupid guise of “common decency.”